Serena Williams on Wednesday offered a slightly new twist on the classic non-apology apology after she was quoted by Rolling Stone delivering shockingly insensitive remarks about the Steubenville rape case, in which a 16-year-old girl was raped by two high school football players. Here’s her full statement from today (emphasis added):
“What happened in Steubenville was a real shock for me. I was deeply saddened. For someone to be raped, and at only sixteen, is such a horrible tragedy! For both families involved – that of the rape victim and of the accused. I am currently reaching out to the girl’s family to let her know that I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article. What was written – what I supposedly said – is insensitive and hurtful, and I by no means would say or insinuate that she was at all to blame.
“I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields – anything I could do to support women I have done. My prayers and support always goes out to the rape victim. In this case, most especially, to an innocent sixteen year old child.”
And here’s the original quote as published by Rolling Stone in its profile of Williams. You’ll see why it didn’t take a leap for many to read the remarks as a version of the “she was asking for it” defense. (To say nothing of the fact that Williams decided to discuss the teen’s virginity.):
“Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you—don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
For those who need the refresher on what happened in Steubenville, Ohio: Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, were convicted of raping the girl, and sentenced to at least a year in juvenile prison for their crimes. Mays was sentenced to an additional year for taking and sending a picture of the girl to other people.
While Williams is now suggesting that she was being misquoted by the magazine, her semi-apology contains echos of the original quote in her description of the rape as a “horrible tragedy” for both the victim and the families of “the accused.”